Resilience and Praise
We wish for each other, especially for our children and young people, that life is happy and fulfilling, and that they can cope with the challenges they meet on the way. Resilience is about handling these life issues, big or small: challenges in relations to other people, in managing difficult tasks, in the ability to stick to a goal, and to resist potentially harmful temptations.
It all takes place between people and in our minds. Some of it concerns the relationship between two important parts of our brains: the Thinking Brain and the brain’s Alarm Centre.
Insecurity, bullying, scolding and feelings of guilt activates the brain’s alarm centre. When the alarm centre is active the thinking brain turns down. Thoughts about mental and social “survival” dominate. You can become angry, frightened and sad. It becomes tough to reflect rationally and harder to learn something new. The only thing you learn, when you are in alarm mode, is to be vigilant in similar situations. You will not become resilient. On the contrary, you become more vulnerable.
On the other hand, if you are overprotected and never challenged, the alarm centre believes that everything is “dangerous” – and you become vulnerable too.
There are limits to how resilient each of us can be in different life Situations. All humans have a right to live within life conditions they are able to handle.
A resilient brain
Fortunately, the brain can be trained, so you become more resilient. When the thinking brain and the alarm centre receive appropriate challenges – neither too big nor too small, the thinking brain can control the alarm centre in a way that it doesn’t become activated without reason. When you have coped with a difficult situation, the thinking brain sends a message to the alarm centre telling it that it was not so bad after all. Following this, you encounter similar situations with greater peace of mind.
It is important to receive praise when we succeed in everyday life. It´s even more important to be praised and encouraged when we practice something difficult. Self-esteem and self-confidence do not come by praise alone. Primarily, you develop self-esteem and confidence by discovering that you can handle callenges.
An upset child who is reassured by a calm and sympathetic adult learns that it is not “dangerous” to be in annoying situations. The child’s thinking brain learns to stay awake and thereby allows him or her to reflect rationally when a difficult situation must be resolved. If an upsat child is met by an upset adult, the child’s alarm centre is reinforced into believing that the situation is dangerous. This child develops cautiousness, vulnerability and will find it hard to reflect rationally when needed.
When an adult encounters an upset child, for instance if they are crying, naturally his or her own alarm feelings are awakened, for instance: “I feel sorry for the child”. This is a perfectly good reason for comforting the child. However, problems will arise if the child learns that it is possible to get hold of sweets or something else that they migth want by manipulating the alarm centres in adults into feeling sorry. Resillience is also about being able to tolerate others as well as own feelings, without reacting blindly, is also resilience.
Resilience is also about being able to accept criticism without falling to pieces, and about developing a critical sense. When we replace scolding with considerate and respectful criticism, there´s a good chance that the brain’s alarm centre stay relativaly calm and enables the thinking brain to use the critique to learn something important.
Children, young people and adults who are able to cooperate, certainly do so. Disruptive behavior indicates powerlessness; here´s how it can be prevented;
- Praise and reward desired behaviors. Also give credit when somebody practises difficult tasks, no matter what the initial succes rate is (Read the stories about patience).
- Avoid scolding and punishment. Instead ignore the undesirable conduct – unless you have to stop dangerous behavior. Be calm and hold on! Any consequences should be mild (short timeouts and loss of privileges), and keep hold on!
- Listen to the person’s own ideas towards solutions. Then negotiate solutions that everybody can accept.
- Offer plenty of positive interaction, which can provide shared enjoyment.
For better or worse, we live in a highly diverse world. Resilience also means being able to cope with all the differences we encounter. Children and young peolpe who, in home, day-care and at school experiences that social and cultural diversity is exciting, are given favorable conditions to succeed in the adult world, in which the ability to work together with very different people are increasingly important.
It´s vital to human resilience to be appreciated by others. It is a serious matter to be left out and treated as different. That´s why bullying is very dangerous. (You can read more about bullying here).
Practice Makes Perfect
Most of what we learn in life – as children and as adults – takes practice. Resilience involves learning the fun of practicing and get better at something. We wnat our children to be succesful. The way to success is to learn the fun of practicing. It´s easy: Give children from a very ealy age appropriate callenges and duties, and praise them when they practice and test themselves in difficult situations.
Read more here: A way to success and Help someone else.